Slam poet visits MU as Coming Out Week keynote

Wirsing’s performance, titled “Katie Wirsing Comes Out,” had no formal direction. Instead, it served as a coffeehouse-style playful conversation with her audience.

2014 Coming Out Week keynote speaker Katie Wirsing performed an array of slam poetry pieces in the MU Women’s Center on Wednesday. The poet and LGBT activist addressed a tearful but enthusiastic audience.

Wirsing delivered over an hour of commentary on topics that ranged from beauty and sexuality to sky-diving instructors to fathers clad in assless chaps.

Wirsing’s work has attributed to her membership in the 2006 National Poetry Slam championship team. She is also the 13th-ranked poet at the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Wirsing came to speak at MU a day after returning to the U.S. from touring around Europe.

“For me, the message I want to give is to learn to have a lot of self-love,” Wirsing said.

She found refuge in the Denver slam poetry community while dealing with the hardships of high school when she was 15 years old.

“High school was really hard, so I think I needed something that was fun and didn’t make me want to die,” Wirsing said. “I found slam in Denver and was able to grow up in that community and it was everything I needed at the time.”

Her performance as keynote speaker exemplifies the purpose of Coming Out Week. The week celebrates the experience of coming out and works toward educating and supporting the entire MU population.

“I absolutely loved the event,” sophomore Brittani Savage said. “I love seeing people who overcome and tell their stories through the arts and encourage others to do the same.”

Her performance, titled “Katie Wirsing Comes Out,” had no formal direction. Instead, it served as a coffeehouse-style conversation that allowed Wirsing to engage with the crowd and expound upon both serious and comical experiences.

Wirsing labeled certain pieces, including one that revolved around the death of her grandfather last year, as her “trip down the sad brick road” stories.

“It’s difficult to be constantly putting yourself out there in that kind of vulnerable way,” Wirsing said on the subject matter of her poetry. “It can be very enriching emotionally while also taking a toll emotionally.”

Before Wirsing began, six MU students performed their own poetry pieces discussing topics such as labeling, gender roles and growing up LGBT. Each performance was met with lively encouragement from audience members.

“It’s important to let the students have a voice and a stage to express that voice,” Women’s Center Coordinator Theresa Eultgen said. “The voices that spoke tonight represent such a larger community. A lot of stories go untold, so when you give them a microphone, people in the audience can identify with that and feel represented and furthermore celebrated.”

Wirsing’s performance followed the week’s Pride Photo, where over a hundred MU students and staff joined together to show support for MU’s LGBT population by taking a picture together.

Eultgen said the event helped give exposure to underrepresented groups at MU and promoting the idea of loving oneself no matter what.

“Every life matters,” she said. “Queer lives matter. Black lives matter. Women lives matter. Men lives matter. A lot of things are being exposed and a lot of people are going un-silenced which is a really amazing thing. People here tonight are the power and the resistance.”

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